Herbert Chapman – season 3. A step backwards?

By Tony Attwood

This is the third article in the series which reviews the reign of Herbert Chapman season by season.  Links to the earlier articles are at the foot of the page.

1927/28 was the third season of Herbert Chapman’s reign at Arsenal.  In the previous two seasons he had broken new ground by taking Arsenal to their highest ever point in the league (second) and then, in 1926/7 to their first ever cup final.

Chapman had come with all the credentials of a winner, after his time at Huddersfield, and he was certainly delivering an improvement – but thus far, not a victory in terms of a trophy.  But expectations for his third season would have been high.

Thus far he had introduced just one new major signing – Charlie Buchan, and had delivered a change of tactics to cope with the new offside rule.

The third season began with an away game against Bury – then an established first division team, but a team that had come 19th out of 22 in the previous season.

For this first match of the season Chapman fielded this team


Parker Butler Kennedy

Baker John

Hulme Buchan Brain Blyth Peel

Looking at this we can see a comparison with the team that opened the season one year before


Parker Butler John

Baker Byth

Hulme Buchan Brain Ramsay Haden

Lewis, Kennedy and Peel were the new men.

Lewis had in fact played in goal for much of the previous season, replacing Harper when he was injured.  Kennedy played 11 times the previous year as the replacement left back while Peel had played nine games the previous season and got 13 games this year.

So, once again we started the season with players who had played a number of games for the club the previous season.  There were no new comers, nor were there any players who had had one or two games before, stepping up to the big time.

The reason perhaps was Sir Henry Norris, who it is said was loathe to put more money into the club via transfer fees.  (He didn’t have to worry too much about wages since the maximum wage legislation meant that wage inflation was pretty much non-existent).

Arsenal lost this first match away to unfancied Bury 1-5 – it was a disastrous start, and not what Sir Henry would have wanted after watching the crowd figures decline last season to the 22,000 level.

Worse, big defeats of this nature were becoming a bit commonplace for Arsenal  under Chapman.  The previous season had seen successive defeats in April to Newcastle (1-6) and Sunderland (1-5) – these two following an even more appalling 0-7 away defeat to West Ham in March.

As always we don’t really know what the men were muttering on the terraces, but no one could have been happy to see London’s top club, last season’s beaten cup finalists, go down to an utterly unfancied team 5-1 for the first match of the new campaign.

Chapman made two changes for the next match dropping Kennedy and Peel and bringing in Cope and Hoar.  Cope had played 11 games at left back the previous season while Hoar had knocked up 16 on the wing.  Both retained their places Cope putting in 24 games in the league and Hoar 38 games.

There was an immediate improvement with four wins and a draw in the next five games.  Conceding six goals in these games might not seem such a good situation but with the results including a 4-1 home win over Burnley and a 6-1 home win over Sheffield United, it looked as if the opening match might have been a blip.  But results after this were uneven, and the club’s end of season run of one win in the last 11 league games left us in 10th position in the league.

Once again  we ended the campaign by letting in 86 goals – the same as Tottenham Hotspur who were relegated, and very much at the high end of things.  Huddersfield Town, Chapman’s old club, once again came second.

Last season of course the FA Cup final appearance had salvaged something for the team – and even though we lost the final, there was hope that we were breaking new ground.

This season the results in the cup were…

  • 3: West Bromwich (Division II) (h) 2-0
  • 4: Everton (h) 4-3
  • 5: Aston Villa (h) 4-1
  • 6: Stoke City (Division II)  (h) 4-1
  • S-F: Blackburn Rovers (0-1)

The highlight was the victory of eventual champions of the first division Everton, but there was no hiding the fact that otherwise Arsenal had a relatively easy draw with four home matches out of four before the semi-final.

Arsenal ended the season with this team


Parker Butler John

Baker Blyth

Hulme Buchan Shaw  Brain Peel

Among the new names Shaw scored three goals in six games, this being his only appearance at centre forward while Paterson was the stand in keeper for Lewis on five occasions through the season.  Paterson did continue as reserve keeper next season, but Shaw left the club.

Worse this season was the end for Charlie Buchan who played 30 and scored 16.  After this he retired.

Thus we have Chapman’s third season at Arsenal.   His record thus far being 2nd, 11th, 10th in the league, and round 6, final and semi-final in the Cup.  Not bad for a club that had never won anything, but with his reputation and background, some must have expected Mr Chapman to have done a little more by now.

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Chapman, the first year

Chapman, the second year

Untold Arsenal

Making the Arsenal

One Reply to “Herbert Chapman – season 3. A step backwards?”

  1. Looking at the league table for this season, it’s amazing how close it was at the bottom.

    Our neighbours were relegated, finishing 2nd from bottom – back then only the bottom two teams were relegated. They amassed 38 points from 42 games – translated into today’s 3 points/win and 38 games that equates to 48 points!

    To indicate how close it was there were only 7 points difference between Derby in 4th place and Middlesbrough in 22nd place.

    Tottenham made a vain attempt to stay up by accusing Arsenal of throwing two home games to get them relegated. When you consider that, although Arsenal finished 10th – 11 places above Tottenham, there was only a gap of 3 points between the two clubs. Throwing two games would have been very dangerous. One of the games they were accused of throwing was against Portsmouth on 28th March. There were still 10 games to go after this and with the it being so close there is no way that Arsenal could have calculated that losing this game would send Tottenham down. What makes it even more bizarre is that, after this game, Tottenham were 3 points and 10 places ahead of Arsenal!

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